You may be lusting over the Chase Sapphire Reserve — which has bewitched millennials and credit card reward-point hoarders alike since it was released in August — but are perhaps finding the bar to entry a little bit of a reach.
But with sky-high $450 annual fees, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, as well as its peer card, American Express Platinum, can be a lot of to take on: You'll have to spend a lot to make the fee worthwhile.
If you're not quite that big a spender but are on the market for a generous rewards card — maybe just one "tier" down — there are hundreds to choose from. Two of the most popular are the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card.
Of course, it's hard to know which card is a good fit until you compare all the details.
We dug into the fine print for the two "mid-tier" Chase and American Express cards and matched them head to head to see how they stack up on fees, perks and ongoing value to the user.
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. American Express Premier Rewards Gold: Which offers more points?
Chase wins this category — narrowly. Let's break it down...
Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders earn 50,000 bonus points after they spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening an account. That bonus is valued at $625.
By contrast, American Express Premier Rewards Gold cardholders earn half the points — 25,000 — after spending half as much, $2,000, in the first three months.
Both cards offer one point for every $1 spent on eligible purchases (these include goods and services minus returns and other credits — not included are fees or interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of traveler's checks or purchases of other cash equivalents).
Each card also has generous bonus points for particular purchase categories.
The Chase Preferred card offers double points on travel purchases (including airfare, hotels, taxis and trains) and dining worldwide.
There are some other restrictions that may affect how you earn these points, though: Wholesale clubs like Sam's Club, Costco or similar stores are not considered supermarkets, and any restaurant that is owned by a U.S. company but located abroad does not count as a U.S. restaurant.
Setting aside the fewer initial bonus points offered by the American Express card — since the spending threshold is also half as large — the restrictions on the Gold card's points (U.S. establishments only, with further limitations on which shops qualify), gives the points advantage to Chase.
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. American Express Premier Rewards Gold: Which has a lower fee?
In this category, Chase has an edge again, though certain factors could make the contest more of a draw.
Sure, that's a $100 difference between the two, but both fees are still a whole lot less than the $450 fee on the more premium cards that each company offers.
Plus, the fees end up being more comparable when you consider that the American Express card offers a $100 credit for airline fees (such as baggage fees and other incidentals) charged on the card. Once you've gotten that credit, you're only paying $95.
Neither card charges foreign transaction fees.
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. American Express Premier Rewards Gold: Which has a lower APR?
This comparison is a little tricky.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card comes with an annual APR of 16.24% to 23.24%, depending on your credit. Balance transfer rates are the same and the cash advance APR is even higher: 25.24%.
So if you think you might slip up and pay your card late, cross both cards off your list now — other cards offer much lower rates.
Technically, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold has no annual interest rate because it is a charge card, not a credit card. Charge cards have no credit limit and the balance is due at the end of each month.
With the Gold card, if you do not pay in full each month, you incur a penalty of 2.99% of your balance, which is a functionally a huge interest rate when annualized — it can end up being even higher than the Chase APRs: 36% or worse, over a year.
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. American Express Premier Rewards Gold: Which has better perks?
This category is something of a draw: Though the perks are different between the two cards, they are comparable in value.
With the AmEx Gold card, members can pay with points — with no blackout dates or restrictions — when booking flight, hotel, vacation or cruise reservations through American Express Travel.
There are also upgrades and benefits available when lodging at associated hotels booked through the American Express Hotel Collection.
Alternatively, one of the most appealing perks of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is that points redeemed for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards are worth 25% more than if redeemed for cash.
When Preferred card points are redeemed for cash, each point is worth one cent. Cashing in 100 points is equal to $1. But each point redeemed for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards is worth one and one-quarter cents. That means that every 100 points is worth $1.25 in redemption value when used to brook through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 towards travel, or $500 when redeemed for cash.
These points can be used — one for one — in some of the biggest airline loyalty programs (including British Airways Executive Club, United Mileage Plus, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Korean Air Skypass, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer) and hotel loyalty programs (including Hyatt Gold Passport, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards, Ritz Carlton Rewards).
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. American Express Premier Rewards Gold: Which card is better overall?
The annual fees and other perks of these two cards are arguably comparable, so deciding between them most likely comes down to the cardholder's lifestyle and spending habits.
The Chase card is likely going to be better for international travelers — and will earn travelers more points, whereas the Gold card could earn more points for those whose primary purchases are in the U.S.
Depending on your spending habits, you might be able to rack up more points — with the three-times and two-times points categories — on the Gold card, but the points you do get will likely go further with the Chase card's 25% value increase upon redemption.
Finally, the Gold card's rewards are limited to a narrower group of partners — and the card may not be as widely accepted as Visa or MasterCard abroad.
So, for its relative flexibility and added value, the Chase Sapphire Preferred takes the lead in our comparison.